Caroline Potter, author of All-American Paleo Table, shares her story and recipe for Paleo spaghetti and meatballs. Grain-free and refined sugar-free.
After launching Root + Revel, I was introduced to an amazing woman, Caroline Potter of Colorful Eats. We had so much in common it was hard to believe we’d never met before. Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (for Caroline, it was Type 1 Diabetes), Caroline suffered for many years until she discovered the power of nutrition. After cutting out grains and refined sugar from her diet, Caroline saw drastic improvements in her health and was even able to minimize her insulin medication. Inspired by her story, and in awe of her gorgeous new cookbook, All-American Paleo Table: Classic Homestyle Cooking from a Grain-Free Perspective, I asked Caroline if she’d share her journey and what’s she learned with us here at Root + Revel (she graciously shared her recipe for Paleo spaghetti and meatballs with us too!). Take a look:
Kate: So few of us really know what it’s like to live with Type 1 Diabetes—we’ve heard about the constant insulin shots and the rollercoaster of moods and energy levels, but what’s it really like?
Caroline: It’s something that impacts you all day long, every single day. You have to stay on top of it all the time–you’re always aware of it and sometimes that’s really hard because it can become something you obsess over. Everything starts to center around when you have to take your medicine and if I go too long without eating, I’m pretty much a mess. My husband calls it the Caroline death stare when my blood sugar drops.
Kate: That must be so difficult.
Caroline: It’s not always easy… sometimes I just want to be that normal girl who can go out for a drink with her girlfriends. Sometimes I just want a vacation from this for 2 days, but I’ll never get that. But having this disease has made me a better person and given me a lot to be thankful for and I’ve figured out how to manage it now.
Kate: Yes! And food is medicine, right?
Caroline: Yes. It’s taken a few years to really get good control over this, but now I really don’t have many issues. When I was first diagnosed, I was told it didn’t matter what I ate as long as I took enough insulin. So I ate whatever I wanted and just took a bunch of insulin, but I still didn’t feel good. It’s been cool to see how much what I eat can make me feel better. My doctors are always amazed at how little medicine I need and my blood sugars are fine.
Kate: So do you think medication is unnecessary?
Caroline: There are so many autoimmune diseases, and I know a lot of people who have treated theirs successful without medication. For me, it’s managing with both nutrition and modern medicine. And it varies—there may be times when my body is under more stress or I want to enjoy cake at Christmas and I need more insulin.
Kate: So it’s all about balance? That’s an ethos R+R can get behind.
Caroline: Right. I don’t think Type 1 can be treated 100 percent naturally, but I think you have to balance the need for medicine with eating a certain way, and take both very seriously. What you eat is just as important as medicine. Some people have to reach for candy bars because they’re practically fainting. But now, the way I eat, I don’t have to do that anymore.
Kate: So what exactly do you eat, or what do you avoid?
Caroline: I feel great eating grain-free and refined sugar-free. I call it “paleo-friendly”. I do eat dairy, but mostly I just eat food as its found in nature. I’ve seen very specifically how it impacts me. I’m not constantly obsessing about my blood sugar going really high or really low anymore.
Kate: Do you think this kind of diet is universally healthy?
Caroline: There’s a lot of people that go through every day and don’t feel very good, and it’s become so normal for them. I’ve seen this diet work for lots of different people. When you’re eating food that satisfies you, you just feel so much better. Especially when you don’t feel guilty all the time. My husband doesn’t have Type 1, but I see how much better he feels from eating this way.
Kate: It’s so great to see how cutting out grains and refined sugar has improved your health. I think a lot of us know we need to cut back on those foods, but it’s obviously difficult. In your book, you mention being scared about not being able to eat your favorite foods… how do you deal with that?
Caroline: That’s exactly what inspired me to write my cookbook. I was scared—food is so central to everything we do. But I think the reason I’ve been so successful is because I’ve recreated the foods I love, those comfort foods. Those are the recipes you’ll find in my book.
Kate: Do you ever allow yourself a freebie or a treat?
Caroline: For me, I’m an all or nothing person. A lot of people eat a certain way most of the time and then go crazy and eat whatever they want. But that doesn’t work for me… I can’t just have one bite because then I want the whole thing. And after a cheat day, I don’t feel good for a few days after and it’s just not worth it. So moderation within those guidelines works best for me. That said, this doesn’t work for everyone. I think you need to be personally convicted in order to really see success. I was 20 when I was diagnosed, and I just felt convicted that I wanted to be my best possible self for my future husband and children and my friends and family.
Kate: I agree—everyone’s bodies are so different and I think it’s important for people to find what works best for them. Since you don’t ever have cheats, how do you handle eating at social gatherings?
Caroline: I always bring something that tastes really good, [so other people will want to eat it], but that I know that I can eat and still feel good. We have a lot of people over to our house and so we love cooking for people. The hardest time is when you’re going out to eat because you have no control.
Kate: Yes, as a food writer, this is where I struggle the most. How do you handle dining out on your diet?
Caroline: Honestly, a lot of times I just get a bunless burger. But you learn what to ask for. Sometimes people look at your strangely, but it’s worth it to feel good. And you just have to get past the stigma of people thinking you’re just trying to be skinny. Sometimes I pretend I’m allergic. I feel bad to lie, but when you don’t have time to explain the whole story, it’s the easiest way.
Kate: Speaking of explaining your story, how have you dealt with that when you’re around friends and family?
Caroline: When people didn’t know what was going on, it was really hard. I didn’t want to talk about it and be that weird person, and that made it harder. Food is also such a love language, so it’s finding that balance between not being rude, but also staying true to what you know you have to do. Now my friends know and are really sensitive. It just takes time and you just have to go about it in a really gracious way so you don’t offend people.
Kate: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from all of this?
Caroline: People talk about not letting your condition define you, but I definitely do, and for the better. I’ve allowed what disease came into my life to define me for the best [with my website and cookbook]. I never set out to be an inspiration, but I hear from people I’ve helped and it’s amazing.
Agreed! I’m so thrilled to share Caroline’s Paleo spaghetti and meatball recipe with you guys. I hope her story inspired you as much as it did me. Feel free to share your own story in the comments below.
Paleo Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 2 tablespoon organic extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ small sweet yellow onion , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary , chopped
- 1 teaspoon organic oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 28 oz organic diced tomatoes
- 15 oz organic tomato sauce
- ¼ cup dry red wine (merlot or cabernet is best)
- 8 fresh basil leaves , chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil or bacon grease , for frying
- 1 organic, pastured egg
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp organic oregano
- ½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 lb organic ground beef
- 1 lb organic pork Italian sausage , casings removed
- ¾ cup organic almond flour
- ½ cup finely shredded parmesan (optional), omit for dairy free
To make the sauce, warm a large stockpot to medium heat and all the olive oil. Sautee the onion, garlic, rosemary, oregano and salt for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, wine and basil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, start making the meatballs. Warm a large skillet to medium heat and add the olive oil. Place the egg, balsamic vinegar, salt, oregano and pepper in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Whisk together. Add the ground beef, sausage, almond flour and parmesan to the bowl. Use your hands to crumble and mix together the meat until incorporated.
- Next, shape the meatballs into medium-size round balls. Brown the meatballs in the skillet for 8 minutes, rotating so that all sides are browned. You may need to work in batches depending on the size of your skillet.
- Once your tomato sauce has simmered, use an immersion blender to carefully puree the sauce. Drop the meatballs into the sauce, place the lid back on the pot and slowly simmer for 20 minutes.
- Serve over your grain-free noodle of choice, like spaghetti squash, spiraled zucchini (as pictured), roasted vegetables or gluten-free noodles.
From Caroline: I prefer to use spicy Italian sausage because I think it adds incredible flavor to this dish. However, if you are serving this for children or prefer something with less kick to it, use milk or sweet Italian sausage.
Photo Credit: Food photos by Caroline Potter, everything else by Amber Schoniwitz.